I’ve known Nathan for a few years now, but we’ve only met in person a few times. He’s certainly done his time in various bands from the UK hardcore scene, most notably XCanaanX, On Thin Ice, and most recently Rot in Hell. He is responsible for the Dungeon Punx podcast, the Corehammer website and also reviews comics for Mass Movement. Beyond this, he once went on a revenge rampage badly done up as the Crow and he’s one of probably 6 individuals from Margate that don’t vote for that awful shower of bastards, UKIP.
What was the very first way that you became aware of punk? i.e. what was your first encounter with punk
There’s two answers for this. The first ‘awareness’ of punk aesthetic was probably via 2000AD magazine. I started reading that comic waaaaay early and the content, though unbeknownst to me at the time, was very often a satirical reflection of contemporary culture. Dredd always seemed to be smashing his very right wing fist through the pierced faces of mohawk punks. In real life however it was probably clocking some of the ‘77 spikes & studs punks down Margate sea front in the summer when I was a nipper. I grew up in a two up two down terrace on a street that squatted between a disused railway track and a beachfront theme park called Dreamland. Both of these seedy locales attracted a cross section of colourful characters. My mum used to knock about with Hells Angels so sometimes they’d turn up at our house too.
I remember walking to my Gran’s house for my dinner after school once and cutting through the park. The whole place was swarming with hundreds of mods and skinheads tearing about on scooters, getting drunk and having the wild times. They had come down for one of the August Bank Holidays rallys and I had to run the gauntlet way through them all to get to the exit on the other side. It was a very intimidating experience for a nervous 12 year old. One ham fisted bonehead made a grab for me and tried to pour a tin of Hoffmeister down my neck much to the amusement of his jeering comrades. Later that weekend I saw a group of skinheads giving a couple of punks a good hiding down near the train line I mentioned earlier. Despite having no stake in the fight I was rooting for the punks to win because fuck skinheads always.
How did you get into punk / alternative music?
A lad at school gave me a copy of Nevermind on cassette. It had just been released. I think his Mum had bought it him for his birthday but he was only into DJ Mickey Finn whilst I listened to Appetite For Destruction every day so he said ‘you might like this’. Loud guitars and that. Needless to say I loved it and began to seek out other bands that sounded similar. Mudhoney, Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr all that stuff. Somewhere along that trajectory I discovered Black Flag’s Damaged album and that was all she wrote.
I had heard TV Party on a soundtrack to a skateboarding video my mate James Reed leant me. Except I didn’t know it was Black Flag see, because it was a copy and all the credits were cut off. I loved that song and wanted it on tape but didn’t know what it was called or where to find it because this was before the internet. I played that video and held my little tape deck up to the fuzzy speaker on the telly and recorded the audio that way. I did that for loads of stuff because we didn’t have much money and I guess I liked unusual music. That same tape had a couple of songs off Gleaming the Cube, the ‘victory’ music from No Retreat No Surrender and some weird chinese song called Lorelei that was the outro on Jackie Chan’s Armour Of God movie. Needless to say it all sounded like utter shit but I walked around with that tape in my headphones for a long time until someone pointed out what it was and I got Damaged. I got the Black Flag bars tattooed on my leg by a man called Dirty Don when I was 17. Another mates brother went to see Fugazi at a pub in Herne Bay and he lent us Repeater to have a listen to. Didn’t reckon much to it at the time so I put Slippery When Wet back on instead.
A local band called Choke played down the Lido on Margate Seafront. They were a grungy little three piece. I really liked them and ended up going to watch them a fair bit. I got lashed on half a bottle of Famous Grouse that I pinched out my old man’s flat and had myself a right old time. Some years later, Russell the drummer from Choke went on to play in the Babies Three who were also from Margate and put out a few records. A couple of those guys are in Ohmms now and doing really well. Back to Choke though and I guess that was when the penny dropped that the guys on the stage weren’t much older than I was at the time. It planted the seed that made me think ‘maybe I could do this?’ First bigger band was L7 in London. I stood next to Nick Cave at the bar for a bit. I’m sure he remembers it fondly.
What was the very first album you got? Also what was the first punk album you got?
Here’s the thing right; when I was a little kid I was not arsed for music at all. I was a bit of a late bloomer in that regard. My little sister liked Rick Astley and Bros and all that shite but I couldn’t get my head around chart music at all. It was all soppy love songs and balls like C&C Music Factory. So with that in mind, I got an Our Price gift voucher for my birthday. I walked into the shop with no clue what to buy. After some consideration I decided upon Salt & Pepa’s magnum opus ‘A Salt With A Deadly Pepa’.The reasoning behind my selection was quite simple. The video for Push It had been on Top Of The Pops and my mother had expressed her distaste at the rap music and the sexy dancing. So naturally I bought it solely to piss her off.
As for the first punk album? Probably Damaged by Black Flag or one of those Faster Louder comps.
Were you in a band while at high school or college? If yes what was the name, and how bad did you suck?
In the days before I discovered that I possessed a voice like the Metatron himself, I played bass in a grunge covers band called Apostasy for three practices before leaving the band to strike out on my own. I think I was about 17 and whilst the other guys in the band were wanting to do Smashing Pumpkins covers, Alan the guitarist and I were really into Helmet and Rollins and stuff like that. We then started Margates first straight edge band Abstain. I say a band, it was just me and him. He played guitars and bass and I played drums and did the vocals. As you can probably imagine we sounded fucking terrible but it was all done in the true spirit of ‘no ones here to teach us so we’ll figure it out ourselves’. I think that early self reliance born from geographical isolation has stood me in good stead.
What is the biggest influence that punk rock has had on you as you’ve developed as a person?
The understanding that anything is attainable if you just stick at it, and that expressing ones creativity is not just the province of rich art school tossers or the well connected. If you had told 13 year old me that one day he’d put out records, write in magazines and perform all over the world he’d have laughed in your face for a minute then gone back to reading his issue of 2000AD. I have never been arsed about being ‘successful’ or popular within hardcore. Stuff like that means very little to me because that’s not why I ended up here. Of course it’s nice when people dig what you are doing but I have always pleased myself and kept on moving rather than pander to anyone else.
What has punk rock caused you to question most about the world we live in?
Who killed Marilyn?
What was the most recent gig you went to? (any genre)
I saw The Cro-Mags play last night. I had promised myself I wouldn’t participate in any shenanigans because it’s unbecoming for a man of my years to be hurtling around like a lunatic. But then they played We Gotta Know and whenever I hear that stick count intro it’s like someone pulling the pin out of a grenade and off I go. Very wonderful.
What was the last record you listened to? (any genre)
Ghost Notes by Veruca Salt
Do you geek? If so, how?
Not as much as I used to, but I still play Dungeons & Dragons sometimes. Still read comic books. I co-host an occasional podcast about D&D and nerd stuff with my good friends. I write the comic book reviews over at Mass Movement too. And I collect vintage Action Man stuff too. So yeah, I guess I geek a little.
Give me your top ten records EVER, and a BRIEF rundown of why you’ve chosen each one…
I am far too fickle to have an eternal top ten, but these get played a lot…
Cro Mags – Age Of Quarrel
A masterpiece. As far as I’m concerned this is the finest hardcore record ever made. Truly a product of it’s time and place. Push aside the mythology, the characters and the bullshit and you are still left with a brace of songs that has never been matched and established the blueprint. If a hardcore band cannot identify at least some small trace of the Cro Mags in their DNA then they are not a hardcore band.
Integrity – Those Who Fear Tomorrow
This record changed my life. Contextually I hold it in much the same regard as I do Age Of Quarrel. It’s a perfectly constructed hardcore record and captures the imagination in a way that most bands fail to do so. The lyrics, the music, the ambience, the attitude, I just connected with it completely the first time I heard it Whenever I play this album I feel like I’ve got snakes crawling under my skin and I want to drift through the back roads of rural America leaving carnage in my wake.
Belly – Star
I am often ridiculed for how much I love Belly but I feel no shame whatsoever. Pure indie rock perfection. Fifteen bittersweet lullabies full of barbed lyrics and a dreamy darkness that coils beneath the twee and yearning surface. I worship Tanya Donelly as a musician and also as my most enduring crush. I saw them play last year and it was two hours of absolute heaven and I didn’t stop grinning the whole time. Slow Dog is my favourite song here but the whole album is brilliant. Sing me to sleep forever please.
Judge – Bringin’ It Down
I discovered Judge at a time when I needed them most. I was going to community college to retake some GCSE’s. Life wasn’t good at home, I was broke and with a head full of bad wiring things were not looking good. I had a tape with Judge – Bringing It Down on side a) and Chorus Of Disapproval – Truth Gives Wings To Strength on the other and I listened to that thing every day on my way to that college. That period definitely shaped my attitude towards straight edge and Bringing It Down in particular resonated. The lyrics were a little different to the usual Youth Of Today or Bold stuff. There was a rich seam of deep melancholy and reluctant violence that ran through those songs. Mike Judge seemed to be a person at odds with his place in the world. I related very heavily.
Cold As Life – Born To Land Hard
My one concession to what is considered Tough Guy hardcore. To me this is the audio equivalent of The Wire. Unrelenting urban horror stories from people who lived it down to the bone every day. Some of the most hateful vocals and violent music you will ever hear. I listen to it at the gym loads and it makes me feel hard as shit.
Throwing Muses – The Real Ramona
In my personal musical pantheon Throwing Muses sit at the right hand of Belly (Danzig sits at the left, obviously.). Schizophrenic, charming, disturbing and dreamy. Kristen Hersh and Tanya Donelly captured lightning in a bottle with this album. Whilst it’s not the howling trauma that typified earlier work, The Real Ramona succeeded in hammering Kristen’s demons into quirky indie pop that is still catchy as hell without sacrificing any of their inherent weirdness. I suppose they were a bit like The Pixies in that regard. Anyway this album has been a constant companion for what feels like a thousand years. It has remained lashed to the mast through numerous failed relationships & hundreds of miles of ugly road. And Not To Soon still makes my eyes scrunch up with delight no matter how many times I hear it. Well good.